My thoughts on Twitter … or ‘Opt-in Stalking’

I do love communications technologies. Communications is the foundation of effective organizations … communities. There are so many ways that we are able to virtually extend the various communities in our lives. If you reflect back on society 200 years ago, you can see how communities of people were limited to physical locality. There was no effective means of staying in contact – in anything close to real-time – with anyone more than a few miles away. With this communications infrastructure, there was simply no way for global distributed communities to exist.

Now … flash forward to 2007. Twitter appears on the scene. We already have the Internet and cell phones. E-mail and Instant Messaging have been around for over a decade and are now completely entrenched in society. Instant Messaging has even bridged to cell phones where many of the phones in use can also login to the various Instant Messaging networks. Oh, and blogs of course are everywhere. I am now able to communicate and keep in touch with all of my global virtual communities. People who I have not seen in years … who are not physically close … are still “close friends” as we have stayed in touch via IM or now Skype. Of course we also read each others blogs.

I was very skeptical of Twitter as first … not sure if I liked the idea of it. But just like any other new communications technology, I quickly began to see a pattern that I liked. When Twitter is used with friends, we can begin to gain insights into their lives.  Phil Windley and I have talked about this, and we both seemed to notice a similar pattern … we are gaining new perspectives of friends and co-workers who are using Twitter to post short updates about their daily lives.  I learned that Phil Windley takes bike rides, and also works on his yard.  I found out that Phil Burns is into hiking up the mountains in the area, and also ran his first 5k.

When I began to look at Twitter in this new light … as a way to allows others to know what you are up to on a daily basis, this began to expand a new dimension in my relationship to my global virtual communities.  The messages that I am getting on Twitter are significantly different from the e-mails, IMs, and blog posts that I am reading … these twits are crude updates about what these people are doing at various moments during their day.  When I began to see this, I realized that what Twitter has created is a globally distributed “opt-in stalking” system!

Anyone can now create a simple way to be stalked … by almost any anonymous individual with access to the Internet.  Twitter allows the stalked a variety of simple ways to update the world with where they are … or where they aren’t!  Twitter also provides the new generation of stalker to monitor the goings on in any Twitterers life.  People twit that they are out at a club, or home watching TV.  They will twit about going on bike rides, and when they are at school.  Stalkers now know when people are not at their home … hmmm, time for a burglery?  They also know when they are out at some other public place … hmmm, time for a confrontational visit?

Don’t get me wrong … I’m actually a growing fan of Twitter … however I have started to see a lot of things that I like and don’t like about the service.  It’s great as it is … and there is a lot of room for improvement.  I’m actually working on an alternative system with some friends … we’re pushing to get a beta out the door by June 4th.  It will provide some similar functionality, but also some new enhancements that can provide some privacy and control over who hears what.

In any case … I am a big fan of this new form of communications … of having a new way to learn more about people who are virtually in my life.  I have long proposed Lemon’s Law of Effective Organizations:

The effectiveness of an organization is directly proportional to the quantity and quality of the communications within it.

Twitter is yet another form of communications that can contribute to the breadth of possible communications.  If you haven’t tried it yet, you ought to!

Brain / Machine Integration Continues

Nice . .. we are getting closer and closer to neural implants to augment the operation of the brain.  These first ones are oriented towards memory.  I wonder when we’ll be able to get additional memory added via this technology.  Anyone for a memory upgrade … for their brain?

The Memory Hacker. USC’s Center for Neural Engineering researchers have developed a chip that can communicate with brain cells, a first step toward an implantable machine that could restore memories in people with brain damage or help them make new ones.

… [ Accelerating Intelligence News]

Google wants MORE of your identity!

Ok … this is one place where I like even more than Google Maps … again!  I was long a user of Google Maps, however they didn’t allow me to mark-up the maps and add my own annotations.  Yes … I could hack code, but c’mon … has had the ability for a long time.

Well FINALLY, Google adds the ability to annotate and more through their new My Maps features … BUT … I MUST create an account and be tracked by Google in order to use the features!!  What the heck?  I can’t just hack out a quick annotated map for a friend or family without providing information to Google about who I am and having them permanently note my interest in some specific point on earth?

Once again … the average person has NO idea they are now going to have even more records kept of every place they have marked or annotated, and when they did it.  Google continues to gather even more information about you … who you are … what you do … where you do.  Amazing.  I’ll stick with

Google makes mashups easy, even for me. The search giant’s new My Maps feature lets anyone create customizable maps with photos and video, regardless of technical know-how.
Photos: Google maps out mashups [CNET]

Measuring the accuracy of computer models

It really impresses me as we continue to make advances in the reproduction of human senses or capabilities in silicon and software.  What really caught my eye about this article was thinking about the fact that the accuracy of the model can be measured not only by it’s success at mirroring human-like abilities … but that it also makes errors in a way that is similar to humans.

Once the models are solid enough, then they will be able to learn from the errors in humans … and potentially due to shear quantity, scale, or speed exceed our human abilities.  Closer and closer to the Singularity we move each day …

Computer Model Behaves Like Humans On Visual Categorization Task. In a new MIT study, a computer model designed to mimic the way the brain itself processes visual information performs as well as humans do on rapid categorization tasks.

The model even tends to make similar errors as humans, possibly because it s… [ Accelerating Intelligence News]

We better be nice to them now …

It seems that someone is thinking ahead . .. to the future where robots and machines might have to make choices about what to do with the “legacy biologicals” roaming the planet.  One robot to another “But remember … they were nice to us in our infancy … don’t we want to stop the humans from becoming extinct?”

Robotic age poses ethical dilemma. The Robot Ethics Charter, an ethical code to prevent humans abusing robots, and vice versa, is being drawn up by South Korea.

“The government plans to set ethical guidelines concerning the roles and functions of robots as robots are expected to de… [ Accelerating Intelligence News]

Dog or Cat Captcha …

My favorite project talked about this article is one where the blurred letters and numbers – called captcha images – are replaced by the image of a dog or cat … with you having to properly identify which it is.  It turns out that this is a hard problem to solve … today … for machines.

Microsoft’s research labs offer freebies. Many projects at TechFest are simply research concepts that will never come to market, but some are being made publicly available.
Images: From pets to panoramas at TechFest [CNET]

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Brain controls for computers and games

As the work in the research labs continue, it was only a meeter of time before the technology begins to enter into commodity markets.  I do have to wonder if the quality and capabilities will meet peoples expectations, however it is only going to improve with time.

I keep thinking of other applications for this product … who will do the first TV Remote Control based on this?  Just think about changing channels …  🙂

Connecting Your Brain to the Game. Emotiv Systems has announced that video-game makers are able to buy Emotiv’s electro-encephalograph (EEG) caps and software developer’s tool kits so that they can build games that, they claim, can use the electrical signals from a player’s brain to c… [ Accelerating Intelligence News]

Kurzweil predicted it accurately

I think it was Ray Kurzweil that said during a presentation at Stanford that the US Patent System was in for some problems.  I believe that he had some charts that showed the near exponential growth of the number of patents being filed … and talked about the fact that reviewing and looking for possible overlap and duplication was going to grow to be near impossible … unless we end up employing the majority of the US citizens!  Well … looks like things are heating up!

What is cool is that they are actually exploring some new and innovative ways to deal with the review of patents …

The U.S. Patent Office Wants You. A plan to help overburdened patent examiners solicits online advice from outside sources (read: you), calling on Slashdot’s founder for a system to rank user comments. Plus: China blocks LiveJournal. In 27B Stroke 6. [Wired News: Top Stories]

Global Warming Caused by Sun!

No … it’s can’t be!  <sarcasm>There is no way that I can believe for a second that the earth is at all warmed by the sun!  Although I haven’t yet seen Al Gore’s movie, I’ve heard it’s all full of hard evidence that Global Warming is caused by us humans.  How could it be otherwise?</sarcasm>

Uh … wow.  This scientist is probably going to come under a lot of attack from folks about this … but he’s saying that maybe … just maybe … there are bigger forces at work than us humans.  Imagine that.

Sun May Be Warming Both Earth and Mars.  [Slashdot]

Numenta Research Release

A few years back I attended a conference at Stanford and watched a presentation by some of the folks at Numenta.  It was very impressive, and discussed the architecture of the hierarchical temporal memory (HTM) system.  There were several other presenters that discussed the learning of how the brain stores patterns, and does pattern matching.

What I really like is the thinking that dovetails with other articles and books that I have read, and how the brain – from childhood – constructs a model of the universe, and we the interact with the world using that model as a base reference for predictions and “next moves.”

Numenta has now released their Numenta Research Release.  It is now at the stages for researchers to begin to look at and experiment.  Of course it’s not just download and run … in Jeff’s own words:

We have found that it takes some developers months to get familiar with the
concepts, and maybe a year to get commercially useful results. It also is
possible that your first attempts at using HTM will be valuable for learning,
but not valuable for commercial applications. The learning curve is similar to
the learning curve for writing computer software. It takes anywhere from several
months to a year to become proficient in writing computer software; HTMs have
similar complexity.

The best part that I like about these theories and examples of possible brain models, is that we can learn a lot about ourselves from these.  How we work.  If the brain creates a model, and that is then used to interact with the world, then that model begins to define the limits of our interactions.  The funny part, is that most people fail to distinguish that it is simply a model … not the “truth”, and not fixed.  And so quite often their own model of the universe constrains their behaviors and actions, limiting what they can do.  I took a number of courses from Landmark Education
that focus on this specific area … learning to distinguish that model, and to then learn to evolve and update that model.  It is amazing experience each time I distinguish something new about how flawed my model of the universe is.

Even with the understandable doubts expressed by the author of this article … I am impressed with Jeff and his work, and believe that he is on the right track.

Quest for the Thinking Machine. Jeff Hawkins created the Palm Pilot and the Treo. Now he says he’s got the ultimate invention: software that mimics the human brain. By Evan Ratliff from Wired magazine. [Wired News: Top Stories]